Dustin Friedman responds to Tara Thomas
Thomas’s assessment of Bad Logic as a “contribution to queer theory’s reassessment of negative affect and the closet” gave me pause. In my initial reading, I considered Wright’s presentation of ordinary language philosophy to be an alternative to psychoanalytically-inflected accounts of queer shame and Foucauldian genealogies of identity, an ingenious way of sidestepping these issues. My impression was that Bad Logic was a subtle yet forceful riposte to the way queer theory has often been deployed in Victorian studies, as a form of cultural historicism concerned with a small cadre of issues, such as the rise of sexology, the scrambling of gender codes in the wake of imperial decline, et cetera. This aim seems especially implied by the coda, where Wright suggests that twentieth-century queer literature privileged the literary qualities of “bad logic” over the seeming more pressing historical imperative to establish legal protections for the LGBT identity. Yet Thomas’s claim that Wright finds “desire not tucked behind but rather articulated through language” makes me wonder if Bad Logic might not be more queer than I originally suspected. At certain moments, such as Wright’s rigorous close reading of the drag queen anthem “I Am What I Am,” suggests (to me, at least) a willingness to inhabit simultaneously both a camp attitude of faux-solemnity and a genuinely sympathetic disposition that attempts a convincingly reparative reading of text haughtily dismissed by one of the key figures of early queer theory. What could be queerer than that?